Adam Harris, Anne Jones, Billy Redmond, Dr Lisha O’Sullivan, Dr Margaret Egan, Fiona Ferris, Hannah O’Dwyer, Maria Dervan, Niamh Moore, Prof Emer Ring
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Mary Immaculate College
Prof Emer Ring,

Bridge Back to School

Bridge Back to School was created by the Irish National Autism Charity ‘AsIAm’ and education exper/researchers at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland, with the support of the supermarket chain SuperValu. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact society in unimaginable ways, with children identified as among a specific and vulnerable section of the population who have experienced the pandemic differently, notably from the removal of the stability in their lives that pre-school and school brings. COVID-19 has posed challenges for everyone globally and for many autistic people, the loss of structure and routine has been particularly challenging. While many have been struggling, there are also many who find the lack of pressure to go to school, social events and everyday activities a relief. However, as children return to education re-establishing routines in settings that may have changed substantially will be a challenge. Acknowledging that autistic children and their families have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bridge Back to School learning resource has been developed to help autistic children from early years to post-primary level prepare during the summer months to return to school in September.

The aim of the resource is to support a facilitator (parent, para-professional, teacher or home support worker) in working with an autistic student to support them in preparing for this transition back to pre-school and school through specifically addressing the challenges experienced by autistic children in managing transitions effectively. Based on the four key principles of promoting research-informed practice, universal design for learning, the centrality of student voice and adopting an autism-specific lens, the toolkit provides guidance in key areas that will enable autistic students to navigate the transition back to education as Ireland re-opens.The open access resource covers  key topics from social skills to “my first day back in school” and are augmented by an online bank of further information and activity sheets. A focus is maintained throughout the resource on adopting a strength-based approach; managing the transition back to school; the role of executive functioning in autistic children’s learning and development; communication and social skills; self-regulation from both a sensory and emotional perspective; motor skills and self-care. While Bridge Back to School  is firmly located in research on how best autistic children learn and develop, the resource is presented in an easily accessible manner to ensure that parents, teachers, para-professionals, home support workers and autistic children themselves can engage with, and benefit from the resource.